The Cowboys Reviews
Set in the 1870s, a veteran rancher, Wil Anderson (played by John Wayne), needs to drive his large herd of cattle to market, over 600 kms away. However, his hired hands have deserted him for the goldfields. As a last resort he hires a group of boys from the local school as his drivers..."cowboys" in the truest sense of the word. What follows is a journey of discovery and a transformation of boys to men...
Not your typical John Wayne movie. Wayne is less of the hero here, and more a paternal figure. After all, he was 65 years old when this movie was made, so his days of acting the invincible hero were behind him. However, for all the one-dimensional casting of him as a hero, here he shows a more balanced aspect to his acting.
Interesting plot, with a dramatic, un-John Wayne-like twist near the end. Plot development, and some scenes, can be clumsy at times though.
As mentioned, good performance from John Wayne. Good work from Bruce Dern, as the villain, plus all of the supporting cast, including the boys.
Will Anderson needs to make a cattle run but all of the men have left town due to a gold rush. He is talked into hiring a bunch of boys ranging from 13-15 years old...maybe even some younger. He trains the boys and takes them across the west until they are approached by cattle thieves. The boys will quickly need to become men if they hope to protect the heard.
"I hope I ain't rode all the rough off of her."
Mark Rydell, director of On Golden Pond, The Rose, For the Boys, The River, The Fox, Even Money, and Intersection, delivers The Cowboys. The storyline for this picture is very well written and executed and contains the perfect blend of interesting characters, grit, and conflict. The acting is first rate and the cast includes John Wayne, Bruce Dern, Robert Carradine, Colleen Dewhurst, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Normal Howell.
"He got drunk on Sunday and married on Monday."
I came across this on cable and had to DVR it. This was way better than I anticipated. Usually when genres that do not normally have kids add them to the movie the movie turns out cheesy, this turns out very good (primarily because they tried to make it realistic and even have the kids killed in a few scenes). Overall, this is an entertaining and better than anticipated film.
"You black all over?"
"Except for the whites of my eyes."
The film seems to try and freshening things up in a lot of ways, and is often successful, but when it's not, it dives pretty deeply into formula, if not predictability, and a little too superficially at times. The drama is an often sentimental, if not melodramatic study on boys being guided into adulthood by an old man who grows increasingly more aware of his youth and mortality, and when it's not that, and more inconsequential, it tries to compensate for a lack of dramatic edge with other forms of edge. There is some risky dialogue and content for a film of this time and nature, and this inconsistency in maturity reflects an ambition to make this thing a little edgier, or at least more genuine than the usual Hollywood affair, ultimately held back by the Hollywood safety, though not as much as it is held back by natural shortcomings to the story itself. This film has some rich dramatic highlights as a human study on coming of age and growing old, between which is compensation through a sense of adventure, though not much beyond that, thus, the final product holds a potential to be dramatically underwhelming. It at least feels that way, as the highlights in question are spread out relatively few and far between by meandering filler that play an instrumental role in getting this film to a runtime of about 132 minutes so unreasonable that, as predictable as the narrative is in certain areas, it becomes difficult to tell where exactly things are heading. When you get down to it, as much as you don't want this fun film to end any time soon, you can't help but wondering if it's actually going anywhere with all of its dragging and uneven sense of consequence, both of which could drive a lesser film into underwhelmingness. As things stand, however, inspiration goes a long way in making a rewarding drama that showcases the rise of men, and even the rise of a music legend.
Still up-and-coming at this time, John Williams showcases exciting samples of the conventional, but still grand scoring sweep that is now iconic, mixed in with classic western sensibilities, in order to capture a sense of adventure, like production value which is minimalist and conventional for a western, but razor-sharp in selecting distinguished locations. Production value and even musical value, like I said, establish a sense of adventure, and it is anchored by lively directorial storytelling by Mark Rydell that keeps up tight momentum throughout the flick, occasionally broken by some tastefully somber moments that range from intriguing to moving, if not downright powerful. The film is a fun one, with heart, and such thorough, well-crafted entertainment value makes up for a lot of shortcomings to a story whose interpretation still wouldn't be so compelling if it wasn't promising as an idea. For all the natural shortcomings and, for that matter, conventions, the narrative is conceptually refreshing, as well as adventurous and tender enough to hold a solid deal of potential that is done justice by the storytelling. Even Irving Ravetch's and Harriet Frank, Jr.'s script has enough witty color to its dialogue and set pieces to endear, and yet, it's true achievement is often genuine characterization that draws memorable, sympathetic leads. These leads are, of course, made all the more memorable by memorable portrayal found across the board, from the charming John Wayne and Roscoe Lee Brown, - as well as a chillingly antagonistic Bruce Dern - to the surprisingly solid cast of young talents, all of whom make the charm all the more electric with a chemistry that defines the comradery which in turn defines this coming-of-age affair. I've said it before, and once again I'll boast that this is a purely fun film, but not simple, because even though it has its minimalisms, more than that, it has heart, and enough of it in storytelling execution and acting to make a thoroughly enjoyable western.
When it comes time to ride out, conventions, sentimentality, an aimless structure, and ambition threaten the film, but more-or-less barely, as the sweeping score, immersive production value, colorful storytelling and charismatic performances and chemistry, all behind an adventurous, when not tasteful story, that make Mark Rydell's "The Cowboys" a delightful and often piercingly emotional portrait on the trials and tragedies on the path to adulthood in the Old West.
3/5 - Good